Two lovers in 1930s Shanghai meet for a daytime rendezvous. Sounds romantic, doesn’t it? Not quite. The lovely sojourn of Manli (Fan Bingbing) to her boyfriend Junchun (Leon Lai) is halted abruptly when she is struck by an oncoming vehicle. Disheartened by the loss, Junchun plummets further into depression when he is forced by his controlling mother into a marriage of convenience to Sansan (Rene Liu), a woman he cares little for. She tries her best to win his heart, but Junchun is emotionally distant towards her. Things take a spooky turn when Sansan encounters Manli’s spirt clad in blood-red dress. Desperately waning to reunite with her old lover, she asks Sansan to loan her body from time to time in order to have physical contact with Junchun. In exchange, Sansan would gain new insight on how to get her neglectful husband to open up. Unfortunately, Chinese superstition dictates never to trust a woman in red. Things turn into a nightmare -- Manli has ghoulish long-term plans for the household.
Mainland China has finally relaxed its policy on local films that incorporate supernatural elements, thus allowing filmmakers like Teng Huatao (Sky of Love) to make the quantum leap into the horror arena. The Matrimony is audacious, leaving modern times behind for China’s colourful past. Benefitting from a higher-than-average budget and top-notch production values, the film is at its core a simple love story that avoids excessive melodrama. Award-winning cinematographer Mark Lee (whose resumé includes this year’s After This Our Exile) brings the visual beauty of the 30s to life while maintaining a contemporary feel in the rich visual aesthetic. Director Teng seamlessly injects supernatural elements in to classy love story, merging the two into a fine hybrid. The film is complemented by a varied and talented cast of pan-Chinese thespians, including Leon Lai (Fallen Angels, Seven Swords), Rene Lui ( Double Vision) and Fang Bingbing (this year’s A Battle of Wits ). Released on Valentine’s Day 2007 in mainland China, The Matrimony will haunt you to your heart’s content.
Director: Teng Huatao
Screenplay: Zhang Jialu, Yang Qianling, Steve Zhimin
Cast: Leon Lai Ming
Producers: Chen Kuo-Fu
Distributor: Huayi Brothers